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5 questions: Meet new conductor Rachel Waddell

July 21, 2017
Rachel Waddell. (photo / Jeff Richards)

Rachel Waddell is the newly appointed director of orchestral activities for the Department of Music. She will conduct both the Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, mentor the Chamber Ensembles, and teach “The Symphony and the Conductor.” She previously served as associate conductor of the Canton Symphony Orchestra, a professional regional orchestra in northeastern Ohio, and music director of the award-winning Canton Youth Symphonies. She holds a doctor of musical arts in orchestra conducting from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and has previously served on faculty at Kent State University, Malone University, and the University of Nevada – Las Vegas.


What attracted you to Rochester?
When I started working at the Canton Symphony, I was thinking that I wanted to be strictly a professional conductor. When I started working with the kids, I realized that the most fulfilling aspect of my job was being able to indulge in the [learning] process with them and being able to watch them grow and become better musicians and better people – that coupled with the fact that I’ve always been kind of a nerd or an academic. I really enjoy the scholastic study and the dialogue between disciplines. The University of Rochester and Rochester in general has a lot of diverse cultural and interdisciplinary opportunities. It’s a very culturally rich and diverse area, and I think it’s a perfect petri dish in which to have a student orchestra be able to grow and develop.

What do you consider to be a significant accomplishment at your last position?
I would say the opportunity to build the youth symphony’s program. When I started, there were only 25 students, and they were really lost. Over five years, we built it to three orchestras that have over 100 students. Last year they won a national award: the Youth Orchestra of the Year (Classics Alive Foundation). I consider that a pretty big accomplishment. It’s gratifying to see them grow from being this little group that no one had invested a lot of time and energy in, to being a group that was recognized nationally.

“I’ve always been kind of a nerd or an academic.”

How do you describe what you do? Do any metaphors come to mind?
A lot of people have trouble understanding what a conductor does, which I understand. I like to liken it to being the CEO of a company, in sense that you have all these people who report to you and are working toward a common vision. It’s your job to help delegate and to inspire them to reach that goal and that vision.

Do you have a favorite composer or works?
I would say, probably, my top two composers and pieces would be Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. It’s hard to pick. But right now, at this moment in time, I would offer up those two.

What are you looking forward to when you get to Rochester?
I’m excited to work with the students and the faculty, helping to bring really creative and innovative programming to the area and the community. I’m also looking forward to making new connections.

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Category: The Arts